SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents, working jointly with Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG) partners, disrupted a maritime illegal drug shipment Friday seizing 54 bales of cocaine with an approximate weight of 1,500 kilograms and a street value of $38 million.
"This seizure should send a clear message to unscrupulous drug smugglers that HSI and its Caribbean Border Interagency Group partners will remain vigilant in our efforts to prevent the importation of narcotics to Puerto Rico," said Angel Melendez, special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. "We will continue with this investigation and will not rest until we bring to justice those responsible for the attempt to import this huge amount of cocaine to our jurisdiction."
While on a routine patrol, the crew of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) maritime patrol aircraft detected three men onboard a suspicious vessel operating with no navigational lights 73 nautical miles south of Naguabo.
The incident prompted the Coast Guard and CBP marine units to intercept the suspicious vessel after law enforcement units observed its crew dumping their cargo overboard as they fled the area at high speed.
After a thorough search of the area, the Coast Guard and CBP recovered 54 bales from the water. A further inspection and testing of the suspected drug shipment revealed the contraband to be cocaine.
The HSI investigation into the smuggling attempt is ongoing.
The CBIG was formally created to unify efforts of ICE HS, CBP, the Coast Guard, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action in their common goal of securing the borders of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands against illegal migrant and drug smuggling.
ICE encourages the public to report suspected narcotics smuggling and related information by calling at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. For more information, visit www.ice.gov.